The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their latest report last week. As expected, they declared that the planet is warming, that there’s a 90% chance that it’s due to human activity, and that no matter what we do, we are going to experience significant changes in our environment within our lifetimes. The focus, they state, should move from preventing change to trying to mitigate the worst effects. Good luck to us on that.
Whether humans are responsible for global warming has been one of the great scientific/political/ideological debates of the last decade. Like other great questions of truth, it’s basically been a Boolean proposition: either you believe people are responsible, or you don’t. The local paper’s conservative columnist weighed in today calling the rising wave of environmentalism a ‘secular crusade.’ This isn’t surprising in the least bit, since the columnist’s job is to get a reaction out of people; the interesting part is that instead of supporting religious involvement in the movement (i.e. ‘creation care’ ), she chides churches for failing some litmus test by showing ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ to interested parishioners. The column continues thus:
Environmental issues are complex, and often involve data that are open to different interpretations. Yet in some religious circles, if you raise a skeptical question about, say, global warming (a highly debated subject), you are spurned as if you’ve committed heresy.
Normally this columnist is both pro-business and pro-religion. Apparently when religion crosses the interests of big business, they become dangerous zealots. Go figure. Anyway, the reaction to the column has spurred quite a debate in the column’s blog comments. Conservatives are skeptical, liberals are true believers, and a lot of hot air is spilled going over the same territory over and over and over. This will continue until the situation starts personally affecting more American citizens. As Will Rogers once said:
There are three types of men:
- The ones that learn by reading
- The few who learn by observation
- The rest have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.
If you’re worried about things now, consider yourself one of the lucky ones.
The LA Times ran a story today describing the level of action required to generate the ‘best-case scenario’ to limit the damage from rising global temperatures. Since it requires all of the industrialized world to work together to immediately stop all carbon emissions, this is nothing but pure fantasy. The flame war taking place in the comments for the above-mentioned column is anecdotal, but probably accurate evidence of the inability of everyone to see eye-to-eye on this subject, so the planet is going to burn. The only questions are ‘how much?’ and ‘how fast?’
This also means the world economy is going to hell as well. Tom Whipple has a good article reposted today at Energy Bulletin describing the intersections of peak oil and climate change, and it’s not pretty. Basically, we can either pull out all the stops to limit carbon emissions, which will slow the global economy to the point of depression, or we can continue to do like we’ve always done, and watch things crumble due to either oil depletion, climate change, or the implosion of the dollar. None of these options are any good, and odds are good that regardless of what we pick, it will lead to collapse. Dmitry Orlov has written another strong article laying out why this is the case.
I don’ t like being a pessimist, but I can’t help seeing our current situation and think that there won’t be happy ending. Those at the top of the political food chain will bend the truth to fit their needs, and it’s obvious that they are more interested in pursuing their own agendas regardless of how it affects the lives of the citizens that supposedly elected them to serve. The political and corporate elite keep people as distracted as possible, obfuscating the big issues like climate change, financial shenanigans and energy usage so much that few citizens (or are they just ‘consumers’?) bother to stay focused long enough to do any political good.
So what are we to do? If you need some hope and inspiration, Jim Kunstler has written a good blog posting this week recapping his vision of the future. While life will certainly be different for most of us, and for our children and grandchildren, it may not all be bad. We may not all be “dancing around piles of Internet servers with cell phones and laptops” for work anymore, but perhaps that means we’ll move on to a vocation that may not be as lucrative, but will be more rewarding in the long run. I think a good plan of action is to first save yourself, then start saving others.
We have a some time left before things get really ugly, so let’s use it as best we can.